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BLS statistics highlight the dangers of dairy farming

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the occupational category with the highest rate of fatal work injuries is not the mining sector or the transportation sector, but the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector.

Specifically, BLS statistics from 2009 - the most current year in which full numbers are available - reveal that the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector saw a total of 551 deaths in 2009, an increase of 286 deaths from the previous year.

This translates into roughly 26 fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time employees.

To illustrate the significance of this number, consider the rate of fatal work injuries in the mining sector, which occupies second place on the list. Here, there were only 12.7 fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time employees.

Why then is the rate of fatal work injuries in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector so high?

Somewhat surprisingly, government officials attribute a portion of it to the dangerous conditions found on America's dairy farms.

While dairy farming might seem like a relatively low risk occupation, employees are constantly exposed to a variety of risks, including machinery mishaps, accidents involving tractors or other heavy equipment, falling hay bales and even incidents involving the cows themselves (i.e., kicks, goring and even potential trampling.)

Amplifying this risk of serious or fatal work injuries is the fact that many dairy farms have merged over the past few years, creating larger, more industrial farming settings. (Here in California, we have roughly 1,905 dairy farms)

Unfortunately, these industrial settings have been the scene of some tragic accidents over the past few years:

  • In April 2009, a 16-year-old employee was severely injured on a California dairy farm when he was struck by a bull and sent into a steel post.
  • In July 2009, a 47-year-old employee was killed on a New Mexico dairy farm when a 1,800-pound hay bale fell on him.
  • In April 2009, a employee on a Wisconsin dairy farm drowned after falling into an industrial manure slurry pit.

Interestingly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced just last month that it will now be increasing inspections of dairy farms throughout Wisconsin.

"The bottom line is we want all farms to do what they can to create a safe environment for its workforce," said Mary Bauer, an Eau Claire, Wisconsin OSHA compliance specialist.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Names have been withheld to protect the identity of the victims.

Related Resources:

Dairy under watch, among top five deadliest occupations (Risk & Insurance)

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